“The difference between how you look and how you see yourself is enough to kill most people. And maybe the reason vampires don’t die is because they can never see themselves in photographs or mirrors.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Haunted
Why is it so easy to see issues, especially negative or problematic issues, in someone else, but so difficult to see same issues in ourselves? We spend so much time looking out windows at others, instead of looking into mirrors at ourselves. The lack of control or effective ability to create change in others often leaves us lost and frustrated. We tell ourselves stories about how if others really loved us, or saw our value, they would do these ‘small’ things to change, so we could feel better. All the while missing the opportunities for change, that might be meaningful in our lives, by ignoring the change we can create in our own selves.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea, I’m calling it the Projected Self Concept. The projected self plays nicely with the idea of internal locus of control versus the external locus of control. Do I have power over my emotions and myself? Or do you? The Projected Self idea asks us, if the issues that I find frustrating or annoying are actually ones that trigger some deeper concern I have in my own self? Is it that I see in others what I dislike in myself? Often I think that yest this is true. Sometimes the behavior or qualities I dislike in others aren’t a one to one mirror of my own self, but those behaviors may trigger another feelings about myself that I don’t like, so I project them in an effort to ignore my issues. So I don’t see have to see them: I rationalize my behaviors. Say for instance, my mom who is aging, moves very slowly. It’s frustrating, especially on cold days. I am not frustrated by my projection of my own slowness, because I am quite capable of hoofing it, at least for a few more years. But, maybe, just maybe, I am triggered by the idea that I am aging, and I am not getting enough done, or I am wasting time in my life, wasting time I could be using to do something I think is meaningful. I feel her slowness and then feel my own frustration that I am not meeting my own goals for myself, the feelings feel the same. And, I feel it most when I am standing there waiting for her to get out of the car or walk into the post office. The projected self then can focus on the other, blame the other, and viola! presto magico! I am no longer the problem, I don’t have to look closely at myself, it’s not my own aging, or lack of follow through, it’s “her” she’s the issue, she’s so slow!
The fascinating thing is that the more we look at ourselves, the more we find that our lives and our frustrations are ALL about us. What power lies in that knowledge! One of the super secrets of life is that we can learn through being aware of our selves and our feelings provide a road map. The more we can recognize this idea, that we notice when we are projecting ourselves, the more peace we can have because we are no longer trying to change others. It all gets really clear when we recognize that we really do create reality around us. We are magical thinkers, confabulating our histories and our stories so that these projections make sense. We get to be victims of our avoidance. And, just as magically, we can stop it, we can choose a different reality. We can instead find ways to know ourselves, understand our fears, recognize the triggers, and give up the idea that we need to be right, or that our feelings are about someone else. As long as we are confabulating and projecting, we miss the opportunity to actually see ourselves (in that mirror) and do the work of personal or spiritual growth. Thankfully, we can choose to develop insights into our triggers that can lead to real changes. The sort of changes that we have some control over, like taking responsibility for the changes that lead to deeper relationships with others, and developing more authenticity in our relationship with ourselves. So, choose wisely.